There will be no backing down by Democratic Labour Party (DLP) president Verla DePeiza in the face of a direct challenge for leadership from Anglican priest Guy Hewitt.
Hewitt, a former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom on Wednesday signalled his intention to challenge DePeiza, less than two weeks after declaring he had no intention of “standing against her”.
The move has so far been given the thumbs down from political pundits including political scientist Peter Wickham, who dismissed Hewitt as a political lightweight.
In an interview hours after the announcement, DePeiza described the Reverend’s change of heart as par for the course in politics, adding that as a member of the party, he is free to run.
“I didn’t back down last year against a stalwart of the party who had a strong record of strong representation in the party and I prevailed. There is no reason why I should back down now. None. As a matter of fact, they are the ones challenging me, not the other way around. I am ready for the challenge,” DePeiza told Barbados TODAY.
While expressing confidence in her base, the attorney-at-law remained confident that her current leadership of the party could withstand the highest level of scrutiny.
In his brief statement, Hewitt declared that his decision was based on calls from persons “both inside and outside the party” and promised to fully outline his plan on his return to Barbados next week.
“We need to renew confidence in the party of the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow and we need to restore democracy, social cohesion and sound economic footing going forward,” the clergyman contended.
Wickham meanwhile declared that Hewitt, a member of the DLP’s “old guard” had done little over the years to instil confidence in his ability to lead in elective politics.
And, the pollster struggled to come up with a constituency in which the reverend might stand a reasonable chance of success.
“I don’t think that Verla will have any challenge setting that to rest. I think it’s great that he is interested in the DLP and the DLP is able to attract talent like that, but I don’t think that he is their messiah,” Wickham suggested.
“When all is said and done, he has to identify a winnable constituency. Maybe he will run in St John, but I don’t know if he would fare any better in St John than the current candidate that has been identified would.
“I love the individual, I think he is a fantastic individual, but if I am to do my job objectively, I am struggling to understand how he becomes the answer to Mia Mottley and I don’t think there is anything in the resumé to suggest that he is,” the pollster added.
While lauding his contributions at the University of Cambridge and the Commonwealth Secretariat, Wickham suggested that Hewitt’s work in response to the Windrush scandal in England, may well have been overstated.
“The reality is that when you are struggling as a political organisation, you will have many of these moments when you are looking for the messiah and almost every time you see the green light, you think that this is the messiah and I think that this is another one of those instances in which the Democratic Labour Party is struggling now for relevance and hoping for someone to lead them into the Promised Land,” Wickham continued.
Meanwhile, David Bowen, who endorsed DePeiza as the candidate for St Lucy, noted that while the developments were indicative of a thriving democracy, the timing of the challenge was “unfortunate”.
Bowen noted that in the midst of social and economic uncertainty, Barbadians needed stability.
“This country needs a stable, united Democratic Labour Party. The elections will be held within the next four to six months. I, therefore, say to the DLP, hold firm,” said Bowen, the former campaign manager for St Lucy MP Peter Phillips.
“You have a leader that has a solid foundation in the constituency of St. Lucy. She is exactly what St. Lucy needs and she is precisely what the DLP needs. With her, you can mark your first win in the winners’ column,” Bowen urged.